I’m still on a high from yesterday’s presentation with BJ at Bid & Proposal Con here in Atlanta. In “Fifty Shades of Great”, we presented a parody that we’d written of a certain well-known book – and used it as the basis for fifty tips to improve proposal capabilities.
1. Find a C-level executive to act as the personal sponsor & champion for your proposal function.
2. Calculate the revenue proposals generate – and the jobs they create – and promote the ROI generated by the proposal support function.
3. Calculate a realistic yet generous budget for effectively managing proposals – without cutting corners – and ensure this is under the direct, discretionary control of the head of the proposal function.
4. Create trust with sales by producing high-quality proposals – taking away the pain, and helping them to win more business.
5. Provide your proposal staff with a working environment conducive to effective, creative work.
6. Ensure you have ready access to war rooms for proposal development.
7. Create a comprehensive library of strategic, up-to-date, easy-to-tailor pre-written proposal content and graphics.
8. Define clearly the process by which your sales staff should engage the proposal support function, and the services that will (and will not) be provided.
9. Establish a clear and measurable service level agreement in place with your sales and business colleagues.
10. Build a clear capacity plan showing the number of deals your proposal centre can support, and ensure that you have the corresponding staffing level in place.
11. Help sales to write proactive proposals to retain and extend existing contracts without these going to competitive tender.
12. Coach sales to engage you as soon as an opportunity is a realistic twinkle in their eyes, so you can undertake thorough pre-proposal planning to shape the deal in your favour.
13. Establish a robust, active qualification process in place that ensures you only work on the right deals – treating each opportunity as qualified out until it is qualified in.
14. Develop a clear, compelling strategy to seduce your client’s decision-makers for each opportunity. If you don’t have a compelling story to tell, don’t bother!
15. Conduct a high-quality kick-off workshop to engage, inform, motivate and connect your team.
16. Design content before starting to write, working out how to maximise your scores.
17. Document your proposal process clearly, and ensure it is understood, supported – and obeyed – by all parties.
18. Ensure that the right people are fully, quickly and willingly engaged once a deal is qualified in: proposals should be part of the role descriptions and objectives for the staff involved; insist that those taking the decision to qualify in then ensure their staff’s active involvement.
19. Clearly document and explain the roles and responsibilities of all those involved in proposal development.
20. Train all those involved in proposal development in the necessary techniques.
21. Be a proposal evangelist: champion best practices throughout the business, regularly.
22. Adopt a disciplined approach to developing – as opposed to merely writing – content.
23. Foster the development of proposals that are a joy to read, by editing and proofreading content so that it is high-quality. Build the necessary time into your plan.
24. Use social media, as well as more traditional techniques, to share information between team members working on your proposals.
25. Establish a well-structured coaching and mentoring program for all staff in your proposal function. Mentor and / or be mentored.
26. Accredit your proposal staff – and not just to Foundation Level.
27. Ensure that all strategic deals have strong and active executive sponsorship.
28. All of your proposal managers should be skilled in project management and leadership; train them to a high standard and give them the necessary authority.
29. Ensure that there are consequences for those who don’t meet deadlines or who don’t produce
30. Conduct reviews and approvals in accordance with a robust yet flexible governance process.
31. Submit proposals that are professional in look and feel, designed in a way which brings your story to life.
32. Draw! Ensure that all of your proposals include excellent, customer-centric graphics to enliven and explain your story.
33. Don’t fall behind the pack with your proposal output. (Think poster proposals, iPads, website submissions, bid portals, contemporary binding and packaging…)
34. Remember that production is best left to the experts – but only to experts who ‘get’ proposals.
35. Production and submission: have a Plan B…and C.
36. Consider design very early, so that your proposal documentation is consistent with other bid collateral.
37. Win more.
38. Compensate your proposal staff more than adequately – salaries, bonuses, recognition, time off…
39. Conduct effective learning reviews internally, win or lose, recognising what worked well as well as what could have gone better.
40. Conduct effective and insightful client debriefs at the end of each bid/proposal effort, ensuring that feedback on proposal quality is specifically captured.
41. Make your executive sponsor accountable for implementing actions and sharing knowledge as a result of your learning reviews.
42. Benchmark your proposal output and capabilities objectively and independently and on a regular basis.
43. Have a client audit program in place, to regularly understand and quantify evaluators’ views of the quality of your proposals compared to those of your competitors.
44. Ensure that roles in your proposal function are filled by staff committed to a career in proposal management.
45. Attending APMP events is a right, not a privilege. Make sure your senior management understand this.
46. Share knowledge between team members on a regular basis and help them to improve their skills and knowledge.
47. ‘Will-win’ deals, not merely ‘must-win’. Get serious!
48. Celebrate success.
49. Write a list of things that would make your proposal function a better place to work. And do something about them.
50. Build a clear, costed, prioritised improvement plan to enhance your proposal capabilities in the coming year; get it agreed and secure the necessary funding.